Trinity undefeated after marathon contest against Class AA Oak Forest

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 30, 2003

AMITE, La. &045; As the ball took its parabolic avenue through the smooth Louisiana air from Trinity quarterback Ryan Rachal’s hands, the Saints’ place among the Mississippi Private School Association’s elite hung in the balance.

The dream of an undefeated season was still up for grabs, even though defending Class AA champion Oak Forest had squashed a Trinity defense pipedream of shutting out every Friday opponent way back in the first quarter.

Back to the suspended pigskin. As it made its way down, it begged for someone who thrives on the moment to come up and pull it from the night.

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Dudley Guice Jr. obliged with a swim move on the Yellow Jackets’ defensive back, finding a crease in the end zone and climbing the ladder to retrieve the ball for the winning score, as the Saints humbled a clamorous Oak Forest crowd with a scintillating 20-14 double overtime victory.

&uot;Walt (Ketchings) told me before the second overtime, ‘Show me your SEC material,’ and I made the big play,&uot; said the 6-3 Guice, who is a verbal commitment of Mississippi State’s next year. &uot;I wanted to contribute my best effort, but it was Chase Brown, Walt Ketchings, Gregory Ketchings, Ryan Rachal and the defensive and offensive lines that won it for us.&uot;

Too bad ESPN, which is 45 miles away in Baton Rouge for today’s LSU-Georgia affair, was not at E.J. Courtney Memorial Stadium because it was a classic.

Momentum was swaying like palm trees on the Atlantic Coast during Hurricane Isabel.

&uot;We made mistakes in the first half, but it came down to who was going to make plays in the second half,&uot; Trinity head coach David King said. &uot;I’m so proud of these boys for this gut-check. We’re not used to people stopping us, and we had to play field position all night.&uot;

Joey Wilson recovered a fumbled handoff for the Saints (5-0), who trailed 14-7 at the break, midway through the third quarter in Oak Forest (4-1) territory.

A 42-yard drive, which came nearly four minutes off the clock, was capped when Gregory Ketchings plunged in from a yard out to tie the score 14-all with 3:16 to play in the third.

Ketchings led Trinity’s ground attack with 104 yards on 14 carries, and both of the Saints’ regulation scores.

&uot;You take the tempo into the half, you’re supposed to win football games, but we didn’t tonight,&uot; Yellow Jackets head coach Jason Brabham said. &uot;We were pounding the football and then laid it down on the field, and that’s when the momentum shifted.&uot;

On the ensuing drive, Oak Forest had a chance to salt the game away with a methodical 14-play drive from its own 34 down to the Saints 14 before a 4th and 5 attempt crumbled when Taylor Finch fumbled a wobbly option pitch from quarterback Shane Holland.

The two defenses proceeded to bow up after Oak Forest’s second fumble in as many possessions, with each not allowing the other into scoring territory until Trinity placekicker Nason Stephens 41-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left with five seconds left.

&uot;That happens when you’ve got two teams on the field that have won state championships,&uot; King said. &uot;There’s a lot of tradition in both programs. That’s what makes great ball games.&uot;

Both teams had relatively easy pitch shots for three points and the win in the first overtime, but Stephens 29-yard chance drifted right and Jackets’ kicker Jason Wallace’s was a shade wide of the left upright.

Oak Forest began from the Trinity 10 in the second extra frame, only to see its superior rushing attack that amassed 241 yards on 52 carries, come five yards short of the goal line.

&uot;They were lined up to slant us inside, and anytime that happens you can run off tackle,&uot; Brabham said. &uot;I felt like we could run the ball, but what I was worried about was stopping (Trinity).&uot;

Wallace whiffed on his second go-ahead try, and it was the Saints came to lose.

After an initial Ketchings carry netted no yards, Guice’s number was called. Lined up on the Trinity sideline, he fought his way through double coverage, snatched the ball from the air and the celebration was on.

&uot;I was getting frustrated that first half. But I had to check myself and stay away from trying to make a big play and find myself among the team,&uot; Guice said. &uot;I just kept running my routes, and the passes we ran were modest so I could stay in a groove. I just wanted to let the backs to their thing.&uot;

&uot;I see this as a springboard game for us. I knew coming in here there was no way you’re going to beat Oak Forest by three or four touchdowns,&uot; King said. &uot;Not a lot of single-A teams beat them on their home turf.

&uot;It was one of those playoff-type atmospheres. We needed that right now.&uot;